What Is A Financial Statement? Financial Statements In A Nutshell

Financial statements help companies assess several aspects of the business, from profitability (income statement) to how assets are sourced (balance sheet), and cash inflows and outflows (cash flow statement). Financial statements are also mandatory for companies for tax purposes. They are also used by managers to assess the performance of the business.

Balance SheetA financial statement that provides a snapshot of a company’s financial position at a specific point in time.– Shows assets, liabilities, and equity. – Helps assess solvency and liquidity.Year-end balance sheet of a corporation.Assessing the financial health and stability of a company.
Income StatementAlso known as the Profit and Loss (P&L) statement, it summarizes a company’s revenues, expenses, and profits.– Reveals the profitability of a business. – Useful for evaluating performance over a specific period.Quarterly income statement of a retailer.Analyzing revenue, expenses, and profit trends.
Cash Flow StatementThis statement shows how changes in balance sheet and income accounts affect cash and cash equivalents.– Highlights a company’s ability to generate cash. – Vital for assessing liquidity and cash management.Monthly cash flow statement of a startup.Managing cash flow and predicting cash needs.
Statement of Retained EarningsTracks changes in retained earnings over a specific period, accounting for dividends and net income.– Helps shareholders understand how profits are retained or distributed. – Links income statement to balance sheet.Quarterly statement of retained earnings.Demonstrating changes in equity to shareholders.
Notes to Financial StatementsSupplementary information providing details and context about the items reported in the main financial statements.– Enhances transparency and clarifies accounting policies. – Discloses contingent liabilities and significant events.Notes explaining accounting methods used.Providing additional context and details to financial data.

Financial Statements Builder

Introduction To The Main Financial Statements 

The main financial statements are the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flow Statement.

Together those three documents make up what is usually referred as “financial statements.”

Each of these statements has a different purpose and together they give us specific information in regard to: “Return, Risk, and Cash”. 

First, if you look at the income statement, there is no way you would make any assessment about the risk of the organization at that particular point in time or the cash produced in a certain period.

Instead, the Income Statement (or Profit & Loss) will show you the return generated by the business. 

Second, if you want to understand how an organization acquired the resources to operate the business, you have to look at the Balance Sheet.

How does the balance sheet assess the risk of an organization?

Simple, there are two ways a company can acquire resources:

either through Equity or Debt.

As you can imagine, too much debt can be dangerous. What would occur if you run a business and suddenly your creditors ask for the money you owe them?

You would go bankrupt. Instead, when debt in proportion to the equity is dismal, this makes your organization creditworthy and safer.

Third, it happened many times in the financial world history to see profitable companies bankrupt due to poor cash management. 

The cash flow statement helps you to answer questions such as: How much cash did we make? Where did the cash come from?

In fact, an organization can find cash through three main activities: Operating, Investing, and Financing. 

Income Statement (P&L): Show me The Bottom Line

The income statement, together with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement is among the key financial statements to understand how companies perform at a fundamental level. The income statement shows the revenues and costs for a period and whether the company runs at a profit or loss (also called the P&L statement).

The main purpose of the income statement is to show the return of the business in a certain period: Quarterly, Biannually, or Yearly.

The income statement is built around the bottom line, the “net profit”. Do not be surprised to notice your eyes unexplainably falling on the net income.

This distracts you from other metrics on the Income Statement that are as important as the Net Income.

Balance Sheet: The Power Of The Now

The accounting equation is the fundamental equation that keeps together a balance sheet. Indeed, it states that assets always equal liability plus equity. The foundation of accounting is the double-entry system which assumes that a company’s balance sheet can be broken down into assets, and how they get sources (either through equity/capital or liability/debt).

The main purpose of the Balance Sheet is to show the risk of the business in the particular moment you are looking at it.

In Fact, if you look at the balance sheet on January 1st it won’t be the same on January 2nd

Of course, this is true for the P&L and CFS (Cash Flow Statement) as well, but the balance sheet is an instant snapshot of the business more than a collage of pictures taken in different moments, like the Income Statement. 

Cash Flow Statement (CFS): Cash Is King

The cash flow statement is the third main financial statement, together with the income statement and the balance sheet. It helps to assess the liquidity of an organization by showing the cash balances coming from operations, investing, and financing. The cash flow statement can be prepared with two separate methods: direct and indirect.

The main purpose of the cash flow statement is to show the cash generated by an organization in a certain period: Quarterly, Biannually, or Yearly. 

It doesn’t matter how much profits a business is making, one way to know whether the business will survive in the next future is to look at the cash.

Generating cash is no easy task and the organizations who are able to keep their profits stable and generate enough cash to sustain their operations and invest for future growth are the ones who thrive. 

Real Life Analogy

Let me use a real-life analogy here. If you are a photographer in order for you to do your job, you must have a professional camera.

In addition, you can take instant pictures or build a collage of pictures you have taken in the last three months, and remember the camera will work as soon as the battery will be charged.

Indeed, you can compare the single picture or “instant picture”, on your balance sheet, while the “collage” pictures taken in the last three months, are on your income statement.

Furthermore, you want to see what’s the level of charge of the battery and how long the camera will operate. The battery life can be compared to your cash flow statement.

Indeed, a lack of cash for a business is almost like a lack of oxygen for an individual.

According to your needs, you can look separately at each statement.

However, if you want the whole picture of the business you must look at all of them concurrently.

Key Highlights

  • Financial Statements Overview: Financial statements are essential tools used by businesses, investors, analysts, and other stakeholders to gain insights into a company’s financial performance, health, and prospects. The three main financial statements are the Balance Sheet, Income Statement (also known as Profit & Loss), and Cash Flow Statement. Together, these statements offer a comprehensive view of a company’s financial activities, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions.
  • Income Statement (Profit & Loss):
    • Revenues and Costs: The income statement provides a summary of a company’s revenues and costs over a specific period, usually a quarter or a year. Revenues encompass all the money the company earns from its operations, such as sales of products or services.
    • Profit or Loss: By deducting costs, including production, operating expenses, and taxes, from revenues, the income statement calculates the company’s net income. A positive net income indicates a profit, while a negative net income indicates a loss.
    • Return Perspective: The income statement’s primary purpose is to show how effectively a company is generating returns on its operations. It provides insights into the company’s ability to manage costs and generate profits.
  • Balance Sheet:
    • Financial Position: The balance sheet offers a snapshot of a company’s financial position at a specific moment in time. It presents the company’s assets, liabilities, and equity, following the accounting equation: assets = liabilities + equity.
    • Assets and Sources: The balance sheet reveals how a company’s assets are financed—either through debt (liabilities) or equity (ownership). It helps assess the company’s risk profile and creditworthiness.
    • Risk Assessment: While the income statement focuses on profitability, the balance sheet evaluates the company’s risk exposure. A well-balanced structure between debt and equity indicates a healthier financial position.
  • Cash Flow Statement:
    • Cash Movements: The cash flow statement tracks the inflows and outflows of cash resulting from three main activities: operating, investing, and financing. It provides insights into how cash is generated, spent, and managed.
    • Liquidity Assessment: The cash flow statement is crucial for assessing a company’s liquidity—its ability to meet short-term obligations and cover operational needs. A positive cash flow from operating activities indicates the company is generating sufficient cash to support its core operations.
    • Cash vs. Profits: A business can be profitable on paper (according to the income statement) but face liquidity issues if cash outflows exceed inflows. The cash flow statement helps identify such scenarios and ensures the business can meet its financial obligations.
  • Importance of Understanding All Statements:
    • Holistic Insight: Each financial statement offers a unique perspective on a company’s financial performance and position. To truly understand a company’s overall health and prospects, stakeholders need to analyze all three statements together.
    • Analogous to Photography: The analogy of photography helps illustrate this concept. The balance sheet provides an instant snapshot of the financial position, while the income statement creates a collage of financial performance over time. The cash flow statement, akin to a camera’s battery life, assesses the availability of essential resources.
    • Informed Decision-Making: By analyzing all financial statements together, stakeholders can make well-informed decisions about investments, lending, operational strategies, and risk management.

Connected Financial Concepts

Circle of Competence

The circle of competence describes a person’s natural competence in an area that matches their skills and abilities. Beyond this imaginary circle are skills and abilities that a person is naturally less competent at. The concept was popularised by Warren Buffett, who argued that investors should only invest in companies they know and understand. However, the circle of competence applies to any topic and indeed any individual.

What is a Moat

Economic or market moats represent the long-term business defensibility. Or how long a business can retain its competitive advantage in the marketplace over the years. Warren Buffet who popularized the term “moat” referred to it as a share of mind, opposite to market share, as such it is the characteristic that all valuable brands have.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Venture Capital

Venture capital is a form of investing skewed toward high-risk bets, that are likely to fail. Therefore venture capitalists look for higher returns. Indeed, venture capital is based on the power law, or the law for which a small number of bets will pay off big time for the larger numbers of low-return or investments that will go to zero. That is the whole premise of venture capital.

Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment occurs when an individual or business purchases an interest of 10% or more in a company that operates in a different country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this percentage implies that the investor can influence or participate in the management of an enterprise. When the interest is less than 10%, on the other hand, the IMF simply defines it as a security that is part of a stock portfolio. Foreign direct investment (FDI), therefore, involves the purchase of an interest in a company by an entity that is located in another country. 


Micro-investing is the process of investing small amounts of money regularly. The process of micro-investing involves small and sometimes irregular investments where the individual can set up recurring payments or invest a lump sum as cash becomes available.

Meme Investing

Meme stocks are securities that go viral online and attract the attention of the younger generation of retail investors. Meme investing, therefore, is a bottom-up, community-driven approach to investing that positions itself as the antonym to Wall Street investing. Also, meme investing often looks at attractive opportunities with lower liquidity that might be easier to overtake, thus enabling wide speculation, as “meme investors” often look for disproportionate short-term returns.

Retail Investing

Retail investing is the act of non-professional investors buying and selling securities for their own purposes. Retail investing has become popular with the rise of zero commissions digital platforms enabling anyone with small portfolio to trade.

Accredited Investor

Accredited investors are individuals or entities deemed sophisticated enough to purchase securities that are not bound by the laws that protect normal investors. These may encompass venture capital, angel investments, private equity funds, hedge funds, real estate investment funds, and specialty investment funds such as those related to cryptocurrency. Accredited investors, therefore, are individuals or entities permitted to invest in securities that are complex, opaque, loosely regulated, or otherwise unregistered with a financial authority.

Startup Valuation

Startup valuation describes a suite of methods used to value companies with little or no revenue. Therefore, startup valuation is the process of determining what a startup is worth. This value clarifies the company’s capacity to meet customer and investor expectations, achieve stated milestones, and use the new capital to grow.

Profit vs. Cash Flow

Profit is the total income that a company generates from its operations. This includes money from sales, investments, and other income sources. In contrast, cash flow is the money that flows in and out of a company. This distinction is critical to understand as a profitable company might be short of cash and have liquidity crises.


Double-entry accounting is the foundation of modern financial accounting. It’s based on the accounting equation, where assets equal liabilities plus equity. That is the fundamental unit to build financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement). The basic concept of double-entry is that a single transaction, to be recorded, will hit two accounts.

Balance Sheet

The purpose of the balance sheet is to report how the resources to run the operations of the business were acquired. The Balance Sheet helps to assess the financial risk of a business and the simplest way to describe it is given by the accounting equation (assets = liability + equity).

Income Statement

The income statement, together with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement is among the key financial statements to understand how companies perform at fundamental level. The income statement shows the revenues and costs for a period and whether the company runs at profit or loss (also called P&L statement).

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement is the third main financial statement, together with income statement and the balance sheet. It helps to assess the liquidity of an organization by showing the cash balances coming from operations, investing and financing. The cash flow statement can be prepared with two separate methods: direct or indirect.

Capital Structure

The capital structure shows how an organization financed its operations. Following the balance sheet structure, usually, assets of an organization can be built either by using equity or liability. Equity usually comprises endowment from shareholders and profit reserves. Where instead, liabilities can comprise either current (short-term debt) or non-current (long-term obligations).

Capital Expenditure

Capital expenditure or capital expense represents the money spent toward things that can be classified as fixed asset, with a longer term value. As such they will be recorded under non-current assets, on the balance sheet, and they will be amortized over the years. The reduced value on the balance sheet is expensed through the profit and loss.

Financial Statements

Financial statements help companies assess several aspects of the business, from profitability (income statement) to how assets are sourced (balance sheet), and cash inflows and outflows (cash flow statement). Financial statements are also mandatory to companies for tax purposes. They are also used by managers to assess the performance of the business.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Financial Ratio



The Weighted Average Cost of Capital can also be defined as the cost of capital. That’s a rate – net of the weight of the equity and debt the company holds – that assesses how much it cost to that firm to get capital in the form of equity, debt or both. 

Financial Option

A financial option is a contract, defined as a derivative drawing its value on a set of underlying variables (perhaps the volatility of the stock underlying the option). It comprises two parties (option writer and option buyer). This contract offers the right of the option holder to purchase the underlying asset at an agreed price.

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